'Want My Child Back': Gazan Christian Pleads For Help After 'Brainwashed' Daughter Converts to Islam

© AP Photo / Bernat ArmanguePalestinians pray during the funeral of Salem Paul Sweliem inside the Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.
Palestinians pray during the funeral of Salem Paul Sweliem inside the Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012. - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.01.2022
It is not really clear what pushed the Palestinian Christian girl Mirna to embrace Islam. The 18-year-old claims it was her own will, but her mother is certain that Hamas officials forced her to do so, as part of their general policy of persecuting Christians.
Entisar al-Turuk, a Palestinian Christian from Gaza and mother of three, has never thought she would be begging to talk to her own child. However, this is exactly what has happened with her 18-year-old daughter Mirna.

Forbidden Ties

It all traces back to the beginning of 2021. Back then, Mirna fell in love with the son of her Muslim neighbour, something that her Christian family couldn't accept.
That lack of acceptance was expressed with violence.

"When her aunt heard about the news, she beat Mirna up, and that pushed Mirna to go and file a complaint with the police about domestic violence," recalls Entisar.

Beginning of the End

It was at that point, says the woman, that all problems broke lose. The police didn't open an investigation into the incident. Instead, they placed Mirna in the so-called Beit Al Aman, or a shelter, an institution that operates under the Ministry of Social Development and that's aimed at protecting women from violence.

"Once she was put there, we lost any ability to communicate with her. Our pleas to see her have not been answered either and we were living off rumours about her well-being."

Eventually, multiple attempts and pressure have bore fruit, and when the mother was finally allowed to speak to Mirna, she discovered that her daughter had converted to Islam.
The mother was only allowed to see Mirna after her daughter had promised that she would not discuss her new religion.

"When I saw her, I have realised that she has changed so much. She was veiled [an indication of a Muslim woman - ed.], she was silent and distant. It wasn't the child I used to know. She also told me that she didn't want to live with us anymore because she was a Muslim and we were Christians."

'Brainwashed and Forced'

Entisar believes Mirna was brainwashed and pushed into Islam. She also claims that it was done under the encouragement of Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the Gaza Strip.
Since 2007, when Hamas took control of the coastal enclave, the conditions of local Christians has gradually deteriorated. Their churches have been destroyed, adherents of Christianity have been persecuted, and many were pushed to convert to Islam.

"Hamas prevents us from raising our children. They use the fact that our family is weak and we have no protection and this is how they take poor Christian girls and convert them to Islam."

Today, there are only several hundred Christians in the Strip, whereas 3,000 used to reside there before 2007. Like all Gazans, their economic condition is dire and unstable, but given the fact that they are a minority in the enclave, their position is even more fragile and vulnerable.
Not Losing Hope
The frustration of Entisar is directed primarily at Ghazi Hamad, Deputy Minister of Social Development in Gaza, who throughout the years has filled a number of important posts within the Hamas government.
The woman claims that Hamad has played a pivotal role in converting Mirna to Islam and that it was he who had prevented her family from seeing her.
Hamad himself, who spoke with Sputnik over the phone, tells quite a different story.
He acknowledges that Mirna was put in a shelter following the violence she had experienced at home, but claims the decision to convert to Islam was personal. It was not forced, nor was it dictated to her by anyone.

"It has nothing to do with pressure. Mirna wanted to become Muslim regardless," he says.

Sputnik has tried to arrange an interview with the 18-year-old but those requests have been rejected. Instead, she sent a message slamming her family for the lies they spread.

"Lies, lies...I was not kidnapped. I am studying at a university and lead a normal life. I met with mom two days ago and spoke with her for a couple of hours at the shelter. If you ask me why at the shelter, let me tell you... my family dragged me to a local church. They kept me there for a month because I converted. But thank God I managed to escape from there and I found refuge here, at a safe house."

However, that explanation does not sit well with neither the story of the mother, nor Hamad. What's also curious is that any Christian who chooses to convert to Islam in Gaza is supposed to attend a special meeting with the local clergymen, to make sure the decision of the individual was not forced, but that has never happened to Mirna.
Father Youssef As'ad, assistant pastor of the Latin community, who knows the family well, says that he is familiar with the Muslim cleric who converted Mirna to Islam. He also claims she has never sat with the Christian clergymen and therefore they could not verify whether her decision to convert was done from pure intentions or whether it was carried out as a result of brainwashing and force.
At this point, says Entisar, she no longer cares whether her daughter is Christian or Muslim. All she wants now is to have her back.
"Of course, I would like her to become Christian again but if this is her decision I accept it. I only want her to come back. I will not lose my hope to see that happen".
To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала